US plans diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

  • A police officer wearing a face mask and goggles stands near a poster of a skier on the wall at a train station on Nov. 26 in Zhangjiakou, China. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. will stage a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing t o protest Chinese human rights abuses, the White House confirmed Monday, a move that China has vowed to greet with “firm countermeasures.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said U.S. athletes will continue to compete and will “have our full support,” but added “we will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games.”

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“U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that,” Psaki told reporters during Monday’s briefing.

“We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights. And we feel strongly in our position and we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond,” Psaki added.

The announcement came as Biden prepares to host a White House Summit for Democracy, a virtual gathering of leaders and civil society experts from more than 100 countries that is set to take place Thursday and Friday. The administration has said Biden intends to use the meeting “to announce both individual and collective commitments, reforms, and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., called such a diplomatic boycott “a necessary step to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to human rights in the face of the Chinese government’s unconscionable abuses.”

He called on “other allies and partners that share our values to join with the United States in this diplomatic boycott.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, however, said the diplomatic boycott amounted to a “half measure.” American officials, including Biden, have criticized Beijing for human rights abuses against Uyghurs in northwest Xinjiang province, suppression of democratic protests in Hong Kong, military aggression against the self-ruled island of Taiwan and more. President Donald Trump’s administration in its final days declared the abuses in northwest China “genocide.”

“The United States should fully boycott the Genocide Games in Beijing,” Cotton said. “American businesses should not financially support the Chinese Communist Party and we must not expose Team USA to the dangers of a repugnant authoritarian regime that disappears its own athletes.”

Cotton appeared to be referring to former Grand Slam doubles champion Peng Shuai, who dropped from sight after publicly accusing a former top Communist Party official of sexual assault.

Concerns over her safety prompted the Women’s Tennis Association to suspend events in China and provided added fuel to opponents of China’s hosting of the games.

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